Monday, September 14, 2015

Italy: Amalfi Coast Day 3 -- Boating from Amalfi Town to Capri

At the end of every day of our Italian vacation, Joel and I would recap the day's events, marveling at how good the kids had been (overall) and deciding that that day was our favorite. As we all settled into the vacation mode, it truly did seem that each day was better than the last. But I think our third day on the Amalfi Coast really won that title.

We'd booked a day tour of the coast through a charter service and were super excited to explore some of the beautiful scenery we'd seen on our drive down to Amalfi. We met our young skipper, Andrea, at the main pier and quickly loaded everyone on to the boat. Andrea was great with the kids and we planned our itinerary for the day quickly. We knew that we wanted to check out Capri, but not spend a lot of time there. And we had several of the famous grottoes on our list, but after talking it through with Andrea, we decided that it would be best for the kids to skip the big touristy ones and have him take us into a few smaller grottoes.

You have to pay to enter both the Emerald and Blue grottoes and, according to Andrea, the boaters at the Blue grotto on Capri (which you have to use to enter) were not "very gentlemanly to the guys." Meaning, they weren't nice to kids. We didn't need much convincing to take the easy way out, so we decided to cruise up the coast and stop for some swimming before getting to Capri. Then he'd drop us off at Capri (about 1 1/2 hours away from Amalfi on our little boat, which Andrea said was "too little to have a name") and we'd explore the island for an hour or so. We planned to head back down the coast then, stop for lunch, have another swim, and then return back to Amalfi Town around dinner time. Perfetto.

The kids were insanely excited to get going, but almost immediately fell asleep. Perhaps it was a combo of sea sickness and dramamine (I even remembered the sea bands this time!) or maybe it was just the first time they'd actually had to relax. Either way, even though they missed a lot of the gorgeous sights, it was nice for Joel and I to have a little quiet time!

We woke them up just in time to start exploring some of the coastline, including the Fjord of Furore (where we happened upon a Spanish drum circle in full swing and had to decline their invitation to join) and a small grotto (between the darkness and the waves, it was impossible to get a good photo!).

Once the kids were good and awake, we stopped at Gallo Lungo (aka Dolphin Island) for a little swim. Turns out that this private island has a special spot in Greek mythology -- it was supposedly inhabited by sirens. Once owned by a series of Russian dancers, it's now owned and rented out by a Sorrento hotelier (get a good look at the digs in this blog post). Fortunately for us, the owners allow swimmers to take a dip in its protected coves. Cam was weary, but Kane vaulted himself right off the side. Over and over and over (much to Andrea's chagrin. After constantly mopping up after Kane's trail of water inside the boat, he volunteered to constantly hoist him up the side so he could jump back off). We swam in the super salty buoyant waters and I said to Cam: "You won't remember this, but you really should." "Don't worry, mommy," she replied. "Of course I'll remember. How could it get any better than this!?" Indeed.

After a glorious dip, post-swim beers were had, the yahoos resumed their naps, and we carried on to Capri.

We tucked into one more grotto before approaching Capri and saw some super bright coral. Cam popped up from her nap and assumed a lounging boating posture like a boss. Our little 18-foot boat wound its way through the largest number of obnoxiously enormous yachts I've ever seen. We're talking helipads, water slides from 5 stories up, full on crewed vessels. Next year, I'm sure. Capri was hopping and we had to wait our turn at the little marina to get dropped off. Shaking off our sea legs, we wound our way up through beachgoers, headed on our way to the main town.

There are a few different options to get up to the town of Capri, but the kids were cranky so we opted for the easiest and took a taxi. The town had a very Vegas-luxury-shopping vibe to me -- lots of people dressed to the nines mixed in with saltwater covered tourists popping up from the beach to oogle. It was pretty, but too much of a scene for me. We had a little fun window shopping and Cam picked up a bracelet. We stopped by the church, of course, and had another lemon granita to cool off. Then we decided we were over the crowds and that was that. Feeling more familiar with the place, we decided to take the bus back down. A super crowded and twisty ride. Andrea was waiting for us, and we happily jumped back aboard our little boat in search of lunch.

We planned on stopping at Il Cantuccio for lunch -- a very common recommendation of charter captains because they get to eat for free. We pulled into the harbor and the restaurant boat came out to pick us up, dropping us right at the steps of the restaurant. It reminded me very much of a fancier Italian Cantler's (our favorite local spot to eat crabs) -- it was open air, loud, and very very busy. But delicious and you can eat barefoot (which you likely are because you've arrived via boat). Watch the prices though -- there are some definite tourist traps there.

With full bellies we headed back out to our boat, ready for another round of swimming. Any time Kane spotted somewhere he thought would be good for a dive, he asked Andrea if he could swim. He waited and waited and waited and then, just as the sun was starting to drop down and cast sparkling shadows over the coast, we anchored and dove in.

Cam had mustered up her diving courage this go around. But as she finally readied to jump ship, she chickened out at the last minute. Since I already had her mid-air, I threw her in. She lost her mind. And then proceeded to tell anyone and everyone for the rest of the day (and trip. and at home) that she "jumped right off the side of a boat!"

All aboard and dried off, we waited for Andrea to pull anchor and head home. And waited. And waited. And waited. Seems that our anchor was not so ready. The kids gleefully prepped themselves for sleeping aboard while Andrea enlisted the help of some nearby spearfishers to dive down and help loosen the mooring. Success!!

We made a very brief stop in the Positano harbor, just to get a glimpse, and then hightailed it back to Amalfi Town. Despite the fact that we'd done little besides lounge on a boat the entire day, we could barely haul ourselves back to the hotel. We opted for what we thought would be a quick pizza dinner (at the Pizzeria next to the cathedral) and had a disappointing wait for food that was just OK. It didn't even matter, though. We'd had such a glorious day at sea that a mediocre meal didn't even move our meters. Joel and I went to bed thinking that an all boating vacation would be next on our list!

But first we had to wrap up our stellar Italian vacaye -- we spent one more day coastal hopping (via ferry this time) and a last historical trip to Pompeii! I'll have those up as soon as I force myself to keep going through photos ....

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